Former papal adviser says Francis needs to make sex abuse a priority

By Claire Giangravè, February 22, 2018, Crux

ROME - A former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has charged that Pope Francis is not making the fight against sexual abuse a priority, and expressed her frustration with the procedures and limitations of the group, which she said led her to hand in her resignation last year.

The commission is an advisory body to the pope on the issue of safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. Its first three-year mandate concluded in December 2017, and appointments of new members, along with the confirmation of some previous members, came earlier this month.

French child psychiatrist Catherine Bonnet said she tendered her resignation letter in June to Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the C9 group that advises the pope and the president of the commission, after she failed to convince the majority of its members to enact changes she perceived as necessary.

“I personally advocated that bishops and superiors of religious orders be required to report suspicions of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, which is already done in the United States, including for all members of the clergy,” Bonnet said in an interview with French news outlet L’Express.

“I had support, but when I saw in June that I was not going to be able to convince two-thirds of the commissioners, according to the rules, I wrote my letter of resignation.”

Francis reportedly did not accept her resignation, but when the commission’s term expired and was rebooted in February, Bonnet was no longer on the list of members. The new commission lineup was announced on Feb. 17 and includes nine new members, some of whom are also victims of abuse.

The relationship with abuse victims has been a recurring issue for the commission, with two clerical abuse survivors, Peter Sanders of the UK and Marie Collins of Ireland, resigning from the group and publicly criticizing the Vatican’s methods and approach.

“When [abuse victims] send letters, we do not answer them! Marie Collins found this point particularly unbearable,” Bonnet said, adding that in her 35 years of experience working in this field, the testimonies of survivors are essential.

The French psychiatrist stressed the importance of collaborating with other organizations and institutions that are active on this issue, such as Ending Clerical Abuse.

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  • John Nesbella
    commented 2018-02-23 11:38:47 -0600
    If you look at another story on the Crux website a different abuse panel member insists that the church is not failing and she praises the great progress and papa francis.
  • John Nesbella
    commented 2018-02-23 10:26:22 -0600
    In other words forget about the church or any bishop doing anything-only an outside police force-with the power to arrest and imprison the molesters will be able to stop this and bring justice. It’s unfortunate but we can’t look to the roman church-who always preach about morality-to do the right thing and police themselves not less the ‘pagan-immoral’ world.
  • John Nesbella
    commented 2018-02-23 08:14:27 -0600
    Even if francis made it a priority he really doesn’t have any power to remove the molester priests because that power lies in the hands of the bishop or religious superior they report to. People wrongly think that the pope has this power but he doesn’t. Each bishop is the feudal lord of his diocese and his word is the law. The local bishop can even interpret church law as he pleases-so even church law is not binding. This is the real problem that needs fixed.

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